Let’s be perfectly clear about this: There is nothing the mayor and City Council know today about LA’s dire financial straits that they didn’t know when they cut the sweetheart early retirement and contract deals with city workers, gave raises to the DWP, borrowed against the future and papered over the problem to buy a few months’ reprieve.
They have no excuses. They are all culpable. They must all be replaced.
If they had any honor, if they cared about anything but themselves, they would resign and make way for a new generation of leaders who share a vision of a great city and have the courage to take the tough steps needed to create it.
The LA Clean Sweep campaign (lacleansweep.com) is looking for seven good men and women to challenge for the even-numbered Council seats in the city election next March, people who respect every segment of the community and will stand up for the interests of the whole city.
The days of government owned by city unions, developers, contractors, consultants and political operatives are numbered. They have enriched themselves off the public dole and left us with an aging infrastructure, backlogs of broken roads, sidewalks and water pipes that would take until the 22nd century to fix at the current rate of repair.
They have known they were running a massive budget deficit and carrying billions of dollars in unfunded pension costs for years. They knew more than 18 months ago just how serious the city’s money troubles were and they have only made things worse.
Today, David Zahniser in the Times reports city officials have suddenly discovered it costs them nearly as much to lay off city workers as to keep them on the payroll. That’s because they owe 15,000 civilian workers nearly 6 percent raises next year if even one worker is laid off or one furlough is required.
Through all the tedious months of budget haggling, the only goal has been to protect city workers’ jobs, pensions and lifetime health benefits while looking for back door ways of raising taxes, fees and rates, and slashing public services.
They still are bickering over just how to do achieve that without actually fixing what’s broken.
City government simply costs too much and delivers too little. It is inefficient and productivity is too low. The middle class is being squeezed by policies that amount to a bizarre notion of municipal socialism as if redistributing the wealth of working people to the rich and poor can achieve anything positive.
The only way out of this morass is a new deal for city workers and the public. Having squandered all leverage with the unions with their incompetent bungling, the threat of bankruptcy is the only way to force things to a head.
Do the unions, including the IBEW, want to talk terms of a new deal under Chapter 9 to a bankruptcy judge or to the city’s elected leadership?
That’s the point I think Dick Riordan is making by showing how bankruptcy is inevitable unless there is a radical shift in direction.
Retirement age moved from 55 to 60 or 65, a step back on wages, a tax plan that shares the burden and puts the city on a sound financial footing — those are among the ways to provide job security and protect services.
Sooner or later, this whirling dervish dance around reality will come to end. Reality always wins. The only question is how much damage will be done in the meantime.